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Justice Ministry unveils anti-corruption framework

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou

The mooted Anti-Corruption Authority is to be vested with sweeping powers to investigate phenomena of fraud or corruption in decisions involving the public sector, while any person or legal entity not fully cooperating with it may be liable to imprisonment or a fine.

Moreover, the authority will have full and unimpeded access to any information and databases, including of private corporations, where the matter under investigation concerns decisions by public authorities.

Unveiling on Thursday the legal framework governing the authority’s establishment and functioning, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the body would be key in cracking down on corruption.

He therefore urged all stakeholders to expedite passage of the two relevant bills.

Among others, the authority’s remit is to coordinate actions aimed at clamping down on “fraud, corruption and any other illicit activity that is detrimental to the financial interests of the European Union.”

It was not immediately clear whether the bills spell out what the EU’s financial interests are.

Further, the body is empowered to work and coordinate with international organisations, EU bodies and agencies, and agencies of foreign countries in programmes designed to combat corruption and fraud.

The authority will gather, collate and analyse information from the public sector – but also the private sector – on possible or suspected corrupt practices, irregularities or fraud concerning intra-state programmes or programmes co-funded by the EU.

In the event the authority determines any action which at first sight may constitute a criminal offence, it will compile a report and submit it to the attorney-general. It will similarly prepare reports recommending disciplinary action, regardless whether a criminal process for the same case is underway.

Not falling within its purview will be any action certified by a minister and relating to the relations between the Republic and any other state or international organisation.

Any matter concerning the Republic’s security, defence or foreign policy is likewise not part of the authority’s competencies.

Additionally, it will not be allowed to take any action where a process is ongoing or pending in a court, or where a criminal investigation has been ordered by the attorney-general.

The authority will be tasked with compiling a ‘register of special interests’ – persons, groups or corporations who engage in lobbying.

Anyone who engages in lobbying activities but does not report this to the authority can be liable to up to two years’ imprisonment or a fine not exceeding €20,000.

Any official or member of a state agency or public-sector body who knowingly provides false or misleading information to the authority will be guilty of a criminal offence and, if convicted, imprisoned for up to three years or fined up to €30,000.

Every three months the authority will submit condensed reports to the cabinet and to parliament. It will additionally deliver an annual report to the president.

A period of consultation around the two bills is to take place until November 15, after which the bills will be forwarded to the attorney-general for legal vetting and then to parliament.


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